The controversial bill which sought to vest in Nigeria’s central government control over the inland and coastal water resources, and recently reintroduced in the House of Representatives, has been rejected by the Benue State Government of Nigeria.
The bill which triggered controversy in the National Assembly between 2017 and 2020, was reintroduced on Wednesday by the Chairman of the House Committee on Water Resources, Sada Soli from Katsina State.
The Muhammadu Buhari administration had sent the proposed water resources law to the National Assembly as an Executive Bill on April 11, 2017.
The bill, however, sparked outrage as many Nigerians interpreted the proposed law as a plot to grab the waterways and hand same to Fulani pastoralists.
On Tuesday, 7 July 2020, the Bill was reintroduced into the 9th Assembly by Hon Sada Soli. It was re-considered on 23 July 2020 pursuant to Order Twelve (12), Rule 18 of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, but eventually thrown out.
Following the recent reintroduction of the bill by the same lawmaker, the Benue Government in a statement by Terver Akase, Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to Governor Samuel Ortom, wondered why the bill continues to resurface from President Buhari’s region.
The statement reads, “It is suspicious that only members from the President’s home state of Katsina have continued to introduce the Water Bill before the National Assembly when almost every other member thinks differently.
“The above background is important to enable Nigerians see the trajectory of the agenda to deprive the indigenous people of their God-given lands and water resources.
“The bill which seeks to bring all water sources (surface and underground), as well as river banks under the control of the Federal Government through its agencies is anti-federalism and negates the right of Nigerians to their ancestral resources.
“The bill, in addition to its provisions which are grossly at variance with the Land Use Act, is disguised land-grabbing legislation designed to grant pastoralists unhindered access to river basins, adjacent marine and coastal environments across the country. The bill is another version of Ruga and cattle colonies whose objective is to create grazing areas in the 36 states of the federation for herders and their livestock.
“We fault the submission of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila on the day the bill was reintroduced, that all Governors contributed in the drafting of the new bill. We find it unconscionable, the Speaker’s mention of Governor Samuel Ortom as one of those who endorsed the bill.
“Governor Ortom’s stand against cattle colonies, Ruga and the water resources bill has been consistent, and he won’t shift his position now! We wonder what the interest of the Honourable Speaker in the said bill is, that he wants to draft every Governor into endorsing the proposed legislation.
“Coming at a time when Nigerians are clamouring for proper federalism which entails devolution of powers to states and local governments, the introduction of a Water Resources Bill by the Buhari administration to deprive the people of their water resources is not only unfortunate but also smacks of insensitivity.
“Initiators of the obnoxious National Water Resources Bill are not only insensate but have also shown crass abhorrence of Nigeria’s unity as well as the current mood of the nation when people are slaughtered in their homes and even the clergy are not spared by terrorists. Shouldn’t the Presidency be more concerned about proffering a lasting solution to the orgy of killings across the country?
“The Federal Government doesn’t seem to be bothered that Nigeria is bleeding from the torture inflicted on the people by rapacious herdsmen who are bent on expropriating farmlands. All that matters to the present administration is to turn parts of this country to safe havens for the herders and their animals.
“We want to alert Nigerians again that if the National Water Resources Bill is passed into law, the rights of citizens over freshwater resources – ponds, lakes, rivers, streams and springs will be taken away with impunity. The bill will deny states and local government authorities as well as individuals the right to make use of the water in their backyard until they get permission from Abuja.
“We call on other State Governments to rise and resist the land and water grabbing bill currently before the National Assembly. This is an opportunity for all patriots to stand to be counted as those who resisted modern-day slavery.